Then your hearts hardened after that, so that they were like rocks, rather worse in hardness; and surely there are some rocks from which streams burst forth, and there are some of them which split asunder so water issues out of them, and there are some of them which fall down for fear of Allah, and Allah is not at all heedless of what you do.
Sura al-Baqarah, 2:74
The above verse refers to the Banu Israel who were told to sacrifice a cow and strike a murdered man with a part of it. The man would then become alive and tell them who his murderer was. The many excuses and questions the Banu Israel asked Prophet Musa (a) about this, and their obvious reluctance to do as they were commanded, is condemned by Allah in this verse. Their attitude resulted in hardness of the heart.
In our last newsletter we discussed the importance of having a spiritually healthy heart. One of the diseases that afflict the heart is hardness of the heart, known in Arabic as Qaswatul Qulub. Ayatullah Dastghaib in his book Qalbe Saleem, describes Qaswat as a spiritual disease that prevents a human being from accepting the truth, and from submitting to, or having awe for, a Higher Authority. Hardness of the heart is a metaphorical term meaning indifference to advice or warnings. The heart is unaffected by scenes or events which evoke emotion such as the complaints of the oppressed and the weeping of the orphan. It generally becomes cold and stony.
In the verse above, the human heart that is hard is declared by the Almighty to be harder even than rocks. Three reasons are given for this:
1) Many rocks have rivers and streams of water gushing forth from them. But nothing comes out of the hard heart. It is devoid of all humane emotions.
2) Rocks sometimes split and break into pieces due to the effect of weather changes. Rain and winds affect the structure of the rocks, causing it to change in appearance. But the hard heart is not affected by anything. No preaching, advice, and warnings cause any changes in it.
3) Some rocks fall down in front of the power and might of Allah. Hard as they are, the glory of the Almighty is great and overwhelms them. But the hard heart does not succumb to the power of God.
All human actions stem from the heart, and a hard heart does not produce any virtuous actions. Many Ahadith emphasize the importance of curing the heart of hardness in order to achieve true success. The Holy Prophet (s) says: The person furthest away from Allah is the one with a hard heart. Imam Ali (a) says: The biggest misfortune is hardness of the heart. The human heart is not created hard. The child’s heart is very soft and tender. The adult however, through accumulation of sins and heedlessness, gradually acquires a hard heart. Left untreated it can become, as described above, even harder than rocks. It is the duty of every believer to be wary of the state of his heart and take steps to avoid hardness.
Azaa and Softness of the Heart
Islam has shown many preventive measures as well as remedies for the hard heart. Many of the activities performed by Muslims, individually as well as in congregation, help believers in this matter. The Shiahs are fortunate to be a community where every year the remembrance of the tragedy of Karbala helps prevent the hardening and death of the heart. Muaharram majalis and the azaa that follows help the softening of heart intellectually as well as emotionally; intellectually through listening to Qur’anic verses, Ahadith of Ma`sumeen and their interpretations, and emotionally through active participation in the grief and tragedy of the Holy Ahlul Bayt (a). The following are some ways in which Azaa help in preventing the hardening of the heart.
Azaa and Remembrance of Allah
One of the best ways to prevent the death of the heart is to remember Allah. A hadith says, Surely the remembrance of Allah gives life to the hearts. Majaalis of Azaa are strong reminders to the believers about Allah and the Hereafter. Muharram is an intensive period of reminders; reminder of the need to focus one’s life on pleasing Allah, reminder of the Hereafter and the transiency of life, and a reminder of what is really important in life.
Azaa and Knowledge
One of the ways suggested by Islam to soften the heart and prevent its death is the acquiring of wisdom and knowledge. Luqman al-Hakeem advised his son to seek knowledge, saying: Surely Allah gives life to the hearts through the light of wisdom, the way He gives life to the earth with rain from the sky. Through the majaalis that are part of Azaa, knowledge and wisdom is transmitted from the pulpits of the mosques to the hearts of the believers. Thousands of believers listen to Majaalis during these days thereby increasing their knowledge and softening their hearts.
Azaa and Grief
Although a human being likes happiness for himself all the time, perpetual feelings of joy lead to arrogance and rebellion. Grief softens the heart, and make the human being wiser and more emotionally mature. The Holy Prophet (s) has said: When Allah loves a person, He places in his heart a part of sorrow, for Allah loves every grieving heart. And when He dislikes a person, He will place in his heart a part of laughter, for laughter deadens the heart and Allah does not love those who are excessively happy. Grief brings about a state of the heart called Riqqatul Qalb. It is when the heart is tender, and its signs include a sorrowful heart, tears, humility, etc. It is a treasured state, and we are told that when that state is achieved then beseech God, for surely the heart does not achieve riqqah except when it is sincere.
Grieving for Imam Husain (a) and the sufferings of the holy family softens the hearts. The sorrow that is felt, the tears that are shed help to remove hardness of the heart and thus slow down or prevent the dying of the heart. The hardness accumulated in previous months is washed and melted away through the grief at the sufferings of a beloved divine leader. Thus one of the many benefits of Azaa is its assistance in keeping the hearts of believers soft and tender.
Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi (ed.),Tafsire Namune
Agha Muhsin Qara’ati Kashani, Tafsire Noor
Muhammad al-Ray Shahree, Mizanul Hikmah